How to Talk to an Older Adult Who Refuses Care

“A Stranger in My House? No Way!”

Watching a parent, spouse, or other loved one begin to struggle with the tasks of day-to-day living can bring up a range of feelings. It might bring up sadness to see them struggle with tasks that were once easy, guilt that you can’t do more to help, and frustration if you try to find appropriate care and are met with, “NO WAY, I’m perfectly fine on my own!” The process of showing an older adult who refuses care the value of a caregiver in their lives can frankly be overwhelming.

Female Nurse chatting to seniors on sofa during home visit.

For many older adults, the thought of a “stranger” coming into their home to help with laundry, dishes, coordinating meals, or transportation can at first be difficult to accept – whether it is because it might mean giving up some level of privacy and independence, or that they think additional help won’t make much of a difference in their quality of life.

So how can you bring up the subject of home care for your loved one with respect and kindness? Here are eight strategies you can use to navigate tough conversations if there is a resistance.

1. Be prepared
Before attempting to talk to your loved one about getting help at home, do your research. Talk to friends or family who have been through a similar situation and do some concentrated research in order to understand what the care options are. The more information you have the more prepared you are to answer questions and concerns that are likely to arise.

2. Normalize aging and the need for care
Ellen Jaworski, Assistant Manager of Home Care at Seniors At Home, recommends normalizing the fact that aging brings with it some limitations, and that help at home will eventually be necessary for all of us. She says;

“When I work with an older adult who is resistant to care, I start by talking about how remarkable they are for reaching this point being fully independent. I recognize that accepting care can be difficult, but remind them that needing it is completely normal.”

3.Address fears and concerns
Your loved one is resistant to care for a reason. Listen closely, ask questions, and try to understand what is emotionally at stake. Empathize, let them know that you care deeply, and show that you are doing your best to understand and to address their concerns.

4. Focus on the positive
When discussing care options with an older adult who refuses care, highlight the benefits that care will bring them. For example, point out that hiring a caregiver to help with errands and housekeeping will free up their time for a favorite hobby or activity. It can also help to remind your loved one that getting care now may help prevent a fall or other health crises in the future. Home Care is not just for those who need help around the clock—in fact, hiring a caregiver just a few hours per week can help seniors remain independent in their own homes for longer.

5. Share your concerns
If your loved one does not see how care will benefit them, explain that if they accept help in the home, they will really be helping you. Perhaps you are worried about their safety or well-being, or you are unable to be there for them as much as you would like to be. Tell them how important that peace of mind is for you, and for your relationship.

6. Start small
If needed, agree to test out home care on a trial basis. Ellen says, “Introducing care incrementally can help mitigate fears of receiving help from a caregiver, and open them up to the possibility of more or longer-term care in the future.”

Start with hiring a caregiver for a few hours per week, to help with transportation and errands, or for a short-term period after an illness or hospital stay. Slowly increase caregiver hours as needed while you bring your loved one on board.

7. Stick with it
Though the process of talking to an older adult who refuses care may be frustrating, be patient! Remember that it may take several conversations about the topic before your loved one is receptive to care, or until you can agree on a plan of action.

8. Bring in a professional
Whether you are struggling, or just need some additional support, it can really help to bring in a professional who can help explain why care will be beneficial. Seniors at Home Care Managers – who are social workers and gerontologists – are experts at facilitating these kinds of conversations and are able to provide a family consultation to help you and your loved one navigate care decisions.

To set up a consultation, or with any questions related to aging and senior care, call us at 415-449-3700 or contact us online.